Wednesday May 4 - Sunday May 8
2016 MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL
"Station North" Baltimore.
by Scott Braid, Maryland Film Festival Programming Administrator
It’s Spring in Baltimore! The birds are chirping, the trees are blooming, and the death grip of Seasonal Affective Disorder that takes hold over the winter is beginning to loosen! Baltimore spring also means that it’s once again time (the 18th time to be exact) for the Maryland Film Festival!
I’m writing you via the excellent Mobtown Shank (run by the excellent Benn Ray) with my annual programmer picks for this year’s installment of MDFF. As always, it should go without saying that I love all of the films at MDFF! That said, this is a glimpse at what my schedule might look like if were attending the fest instead of just losing my mind over helping to organize it for 6 months.
If you wanna read our full-length write-ups on each of the feature films included in MDFF 2016, you can download a PDF of the program guide here:
This excellent sophomore directorial effort from MDFF alum Sophia Takal (MDFF 2011’s Green) focuses on the relationship between two friends (Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald) as they spend time together in a vacation house in Big Sur, California. Petty jealousies and career ambitions pave the way for an unhinged sojourn filled with psychological tension. Beautifully lensed by Mark Schwartzbard and skillfully directed by Takal, Always Shine will have you pondering your own relationships for days.
Documentary cinematographer, Kirsten Johnson has lensed some of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of the last two decades. From festival favorites like MDFF 2010 hit The Oath, to Michael Moore’s notorious Fahrenheit 9/11, to 2015 Academy Award winner Citizen Four, Johnson has created an indelible body of work. Cameraperson finds Johnson reflecting on her career through the images she’s made. Scenes, outtakes and the director’s own home movie footage are recontextualized in this stunning film essay that explores how much you can find out about yourself, while looking through a lens at others.
By far my favorite narrative film of SXSW 2016, this incredible dark comedy from first time feature filmmaker Kris Avedisian features one of the most stunning lead performances I’ve seen in the last bunch of years. Focusing on Peter, a Wall Street type who returns to his hometown for a quick bit of family business, only to find himself quickly entangled with his old high school pal Donald. The problem is Peter has moved on to a chic New York lifestyle and Donald is stuck in the same high-school-heavy-metal-stoner world that Peter abandoned long ago. Rich with dark humor, fully-realized characters and poignant emotion, Donald Cried is definitely an MDFF must see!
DO NOT RESIST
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a documentary that had me yelling at the screen more than this. Chock-full of wackos hell-bent on turning the serve-and-protect police forces of your into modern-day Storm Troopers, Do Not Resist is a penetrating look into the military industrial complex that feeds the beast of excessive police armament. Looking at how this trend changes the nature of police forces and how they interact with communities throughout the country. If you want to get mad as hell, and write a bunch of angry letters to your local representatives, this is really good fuel!
THE GREASY STRANGLER
After premiering at Sundance 2016, The Greasy Strangler has gone on to notoriety as one of the most disgusting and original horror comedies of the decade! If you’re a fan of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi or Baltimore’s own shock prince John Waters, stop being a bullshit artist and get yourself down to MDFF to see one of the screen’s most memorable father-son duos! Actor Sky Elobar will be in attendance!
HE HATED PIGEONS
Canadian filmmaker Ingrid Veninger brings us this touching and beautiful portrait of lost love takes place in Chile, across the Atacama desert and the ice fields of Patagonia. Elias, a man struggling to deal with the untimely loss of his boyfriend, embarks on a journey of self-discovery and healing. Stellar performances and beautiful cinematography abound as the director takes through one of the most beautiful parts of the world and into the heart and mind of a grieving lover.
One of my favorite discoveries from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Ixcanul is at once a bracing drama about teenage love and a stirring piece of aboriginal folklore. Kaqchikel-speaking Mayan Maria and her family, live on a Guatemalan coffee plantation, working for a plantation foreman who plans to take the young girl as his wife. Maria has other ideas. She wants to know about the outside world and is interested in young Pepe, a fellow plantation worker. This breathtakingly beautiful work by Jayro Bustamante, gives us a rare glimpse into the world of modern-day Mayans, as they toil on the coffee rich volcanic slopes of the Guatemalan countryside.
THE MASTER CLEANSE
Director Bobby Miller’s quirky, creepy and endearing dark comedy follows a schlubby Paul, as he tries to recover from being dissed and dismissed by his fiancé. Paul finds a self-help retreat that is geared towards cleansing the body in order to cleanse the mind. An incredible cast of characters featuring memorable turns from Anjelica Huston, Oliver Platt and lead Johnny Galecki, The Master Cleanse will leave you wondering if that gnawing sensation in your gut is more than just a feeling.
This thrilling documentary looks at The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a group of early '60s Laguna Beach surfers who found spiritual transformation through LSD and decided that psychedelic drugs could change human consciousness and thus the world. It became their mission to manufacture high quality LSD and get it out to as many people as possible. From beginnings in a peace-loving hippie commune, to a successful turn breaking Timothy Leary out of jail, to a spot on the FBI’s most wanted list, the incredible story of the Brotherhood, told by the surviving members, is at times hair raising and ceaselessly entertaining throughout!
Featuring a number of fantastic filmmakers hailing from throughout the Americas, our Avant-Garde shorts program is a delight for the senses and a challenge for the mind! Of the many standouts in the program are Theo Anthony’s Peace In The Absence of War, and Margaret Rorison’s One Document For Hope, both of which were shot during the unrest in Baltimore last spring, and Brazilian director Pedro Gossler’s thrillingly bizarre Banzo, the story of a bus driver who contemplates his life from the bathtub.
Our Comedy Shorts program is always a festival favorite and this year should be no exception. Chock full of sidesplitting laughs and dark chuckles, the many standouts of this program include such important topics as first-time masturbation (Killer), a very sensitive police officer (Sundance Grand Jury Short Winner Thunder Road), a teacher that buys drugs from her students (The First Men), mid-life crisis remediation through yoga (Savasana) and the loneliness of the wrong persistence lover ;-( in Dealing With Dana.